Yuma has always been an interesting place to me. In some ways, it captures a lot of what I remember about the Phoenix area of my youth, with funky neon motor lodges and adobe-style buildings. Meanwhile, the town is so close to the border that it’s unabashedly Mexican in flavor. Businesses gleefully advertise in Spanish, and little mom-and-pop grocery stores proudly stock masa, beef tongue, and a variety of hot peppers, knowing that their clientele will be buying and using such items.
Unfortunately, the busy part of Yuma is the “New Yuma”, centered along Highway 95 and I-8 Business Loop, which is mostly newer fast food chains (although they at least have some of the better fast food chains, like In-N-Out, Del Taco, and El Pollo Loco, in addition to the ubiquitous McDonalds), chain restaurants, and big box stores. There’s nary a taqueria, taco truck, burrito joint, or Spanish meat market to be found near most of the hotels and motels, and if there’s a Mexican restaurant, it’s heavily Tex-Mex influenced.
Luckily, for those willing to go explore off of the I-8 Business loop, there’s plenty of real Mexican fare to be found in Yuma. Particularly good is West 8th St, a.k.a. Calle Ocho (seeing that some of the best Cuban food in Miami is also on Calle Ocho, you’ve got to wonder if there’s something magical abou the number 8). On the eastern end of Calle Ocho are some really good Mexican restaurants (like my previously well-loved Los Manjares de Pepe, which I was happy to visit again this trip). Heading further west, all variety of Mexican food vendors congregate with their mobile taco tracks, picnic tables,
and bug lamps, and the fare starts to get more down-to-earth, with cabezas, lengua, and pastor tacos being the fare of choice.
However, the fact that most of the restaurants are in fact on wheels (some even with functioning engines), means that the West 8th Street vendor selection is constantly evolving. Places that I swore last October I’d try this time were, unfortunately, now empty lots. However, Ed Dibble over at Mmm-Yoso blog, does a good job of doing the occasional taco crawl and keeping everyone up-to-date on the current happenings of the Yuma taco scene. Indeed, based upon his recommendations, I decided to seek out Taqueria San Pedro.
By the standards of West 8th Street, Taqueria San Pedro is surprisingly non-mobile. Consisting of the classic taco truck, a small cooking cart where all the meat is cooked and tacos assembled, and a hot dog cart, San Pedro also has an actual brick and mortar ramada with lights, seating, and sturdy tables.
San Pedro has a clear menu, that’s available under the glass on each table top. The key attractions are the tacos, including the standard asada and pastor tacos, as well as cabezas tacos and their house special taco “San Pedro”. They’ve also got quesadillas, volcanes (basically a cross between a taco and a tostada, more below).
For my first visit, I ordered a trio of tacos (asado, cabeza, and pastor), as well as a side of frijoles. The tacos themselves were excellent, the tortillas nice and fresh, the meats well-seasoned and seared, and everything served up hot and still juicy.
The real attraction, however, is that like most Calle Ocho joints, San Pedro lets you dress your own taco. However, instead of having the traditonal buckets of condiments, they take great care in delivering an impressive assortment of condiments to your table, giving you a most wonderful assortment of salsa, pickled carrots, roasted chiles, pico de gallo, and other taco toppings.
For my second visit, I ordered a volcanes and a taco “San Pedro”. As mentioned above, the volcanes is basically a cross between a taco and a tostado, with a very healthy portion of carne asada piled on a crisped tortilla, with melted queso over the whole deal. The taco “San Pedro” is basically a dressed up asada taco to which a grilled pepper and toated cheese have been added. Both of these really add some character to the meat, and were thoroughly satisfying (if more than a bit messy).
Overall, Taqueria San Pedro really delivers, especially since I can get a completely satisfying and delicious meal for under $7 (take that, goverment per-diem rates!). And the condiment collection is excellent. While not quite equaling the Carne el Pastor from Los Manjares de Pepe, it’s in the same ballpark, so, as long as they still are around, I plan to have more visits to San Pedro.